Yesterday, after Joe Stack intentionally flew his plane into an office building after ranting about high taxes, we were appalled that some people seemed to regard him as a patriot.Stack’s “method” might have been wrong, some readers said, but his crusade was dead on. Some compared him to the American colonists before the Revolutionary War. Others suggested he was a modern-day George Washington.
We found (and still find) this view outrageous.
Joe Stack, it seemed to us, was a domestic terrorist, a man who tried to murder hundreds of innocent Americans for doing nothing more than working in an office building. The only difference between Joe Stack and Osama Bin Laden, we argued, was that Bin Laden killed a lot more people.
As more accounts of Joe Stack emerge, however, this view is coming to seem a bit harsh. Joe Stack’s justification for attempted mass murder was no less outrageous than Bin Laden’s. And our fury at him for killing innocent people is no less than our fury at Bin Laden. But unlike Bin Laden, Joe Stack appears to have killed people because he went insane.
(This doesn’t lessen the horror or seriousness of the crime. And it won’t make any difference to the families of the people he killed. But it makes the violence sadder and even more pointless.)
Mr. Stack was raised in an orphanage in Hershey, Pa., with a brother and sister, leaving the orphanage after high school to attend college. He worked as a software engineer in California, learned to fly and played guitar and piano for recreation. He moved to Austin, playing with a band and at informal gatherings.
Mr. Stack met [his wife], the former Sheryl Housh, through musician friends in Austin. After eight months of friendship, they dated and married about three years ago. Both had been previously married…
On visits to Oklahoma, Mr. Stack took his new in-laws up in his plane. He never spoke of his troubles with the I.R.S., though his wife related them. The family assembled in Austin at Christmas, and Mr. Stack seemed fine, Mr. Cook [his wife’s stepfather] said.
But in recent weeks Mrs. Stack complained to her parents of an increasingly frightening anger in her husband, straining the marriage, Mr. Cook said. On Wednesday night, Mrs. Stack took her 12-year-old daughter, Margaux, to a hotel to get away from her husband.
They returned on Thursday morning to find their house ablaze, their belongings destroyed. Officials said the house fire was deliberately set, casting Mr. Stack as the primary suspect. But by that point he was gone, airborne.
Airborne and insane. Just like the postal-service employees who show up at the office with sub-machine guns to “pay back” all the other postal-service employees who they think are persecuting them. Just like the Columbine kids and all those other school shooters. Just like any wacko who walks into a mall and starts blowing random people away.
The only difference between these folks and Joe Stack, it appears, is that his murderous rage happened to be focused on some tax laws (and, by association, the Government). And some other folks happen to be upset about those same things these days.
But not being Bin Laden doesn’t make Joe Stack some sort of champion of liberty. And it certainly doesn’t make him George Washington. Like other seemingly ordinary Americans who go nuts and kill people, it just makes him insane.
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